Lebanese Bloggers

There’s a reason why most advertising agencies in the Gulf are staffed by creative talents from Lebanon. The Lebanese are known for their openness, creativity, and most of all, their resilience.
This is how the creative class has responded to the Israeli bombings:

(Giant whiskey billboard on a major Beirut Highway)


Blogger Meetup XI

The 'real Beirut' is not downtown

Downtown is a facade we present for the ekhwen el 3arab to maintain our economy. In downtown though, there's a club. A club where my cousin goes. My cousin lives in dahyeh and he's young and he's lost and he's depressed all the time. He gave up on his ambitions faced by the lack of opportunity that he had to inherit because of the mistakes of the ones who came before us.

In downtown, there's a club, where people dance hysterically so they can laugh and forget the worries of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. One is called Mohammad, he’s from taree’ li jdeede, or 7ayy elleja or msaytbeh or Nwayri or any other modest area in ‘real Beirut’. He was raised to nationalism. His dad knew abu 3ammar. He tutors kids in a Palestinian refugee camp, next to mar elias, a place in ‘real Beirut’.

In downtown, there’s a restaurant. The first that opened in downtown Beirut. A guy named Georges works there. He lives in Shiyye7 or 7adath. He grew up in Jnoub, in Bint Jbeil with his family. He knows the Qoran by heart. His family is modest. They had to relocate and live in a cabin next to the Roumiyeh prison. He has a rich uncle in Dubai and he was offered a job there. Georges doesn’t want to leave Lebanon.

In downtown Beirut, there’s a café, where Akram works. Akram is from 3alay. His father died in the civil war. He forgot the ‘old scars’. He’s a funny kid with blue eyes. He wants to live and to laugh. In downtown Beirut there’s a Palestinian guy, he says he’s Lebanese now. He loves this country with all his heart. He lives in a modest apartment with his mother and wife and children. He works as a driver for a rich Saudi family.

Beirut is a modest city. The people are modest people. They try to forget the pain yet they live it once again. Beirut is not just Verdun and Hamra and Achrafiyeh.

Beirut is a broken woman. A woman who accessorizes to make her living while she suffers in silence. Her father died and left her to the world.

Beirut cries Beirut. Beirut cries the South. Beirut lost the dreams.

All we have left is our patriotism. As exaggerated as it might feel or seem. I kept seeing a new divide in this war. I heard them use labels to describe our population. I heard bourgeoisie to describe the ‘real Beirut’. I have never lived a real Beirut and a fake Beirut. I have never seen bourgeoisie in my Beirut. They label us. They fail to recognize that we’re not just Akram and Ali and Omar and Paul. We are a not a mosaic, we are a kaleidoscope. An ever changing pattern of identities. The men in power might have us labeled but I refuse to think we are. The people who fall for it are, in my eyes, not true Lebanese. It is hard to ignore facts but I choose to marginalize it as error. Our writings were about memories. Our writings did not reflect our present reality. We wanted to escape for moments or simply dream of another reality. Our writings did not mourn the South. How can you write about the South without mourning. We wanted to bring happy memories and remind you why you should hang on and fight with all you've got. Our writings were like Beirut, shined up to please while bleeding on the inside. We wanted to please our soul and yours and of that we're guilty.

We all live in a ghetto. I live in an emotional ghetto in the US. If we didn’t believe in our unity, who will? It is not a balsam, it is a recipe for change.

But who can dream in times of war?

The Ghetto of Beirut: Eulogy for the Dahyeh

The question was, Why do you love Beirut? And the love came pouring. And with the love, like every true love, came the tears. But why are we crying Beirut? And what Beirut are we crying?

Beirut heard the bombs, and saw them, perhaps lost an airport and a couple of bridges at the edges, bridges leading to Elsewhere. To those places that are, on some papers, a part of "Greater Beirut", but couldn't be farther from it. Those places where the buildings fell on their inhabitants, on the people running from death elsewhere, from the South. Hezboland, el-Dahyeh, the Southern Suburbs, call it whatever tickles your fancy, but is this the Beirut you're crying? The ghetto of Beirut? The place where Fairouz wouldn't be caught dead in? My brother was giving tours of "the Damage" to people from the "Real Beirut" who have never set foot in those suburbs before. And why should they? But now, it's the set of our tragedy.

And the ghetto is regressing. My mother tells me, day after day, it looks farther and farther from the place where we were born and raised. It looks farther and farther from Beirut, the other Beirut, the one going on downtown in all its swank. The divide has grown bigger. Even the people are getting worse, whatever that means. It is, in so many regards, the new ghetto of Beirut.

Navigating the rubble, and the traffic, and the men in undershirts sweating the ungodly heat from every pore of their being; is this the Beirut we cry? This war has been, by its intent, one of the most classist, discriminatory wars ever. That was the whole point: hit the poor Shiite following of Hezbollah, and split the country in half. And the country is still waiting to be split, right down the middle, or maybe off to the side. As much as I appreciate the sentiments of nostalgia and patriotism, and as effective as they were so far in "keeping the unity", something about them strikes me as deeply ingenuine.

This wound did not happen on the old scar; I hope it never will. But why are we applying the same second-hand balsams to it? There is a gash rotting at the edges of Beirut that looks nothing like home, and is so easy to ignore. Just don't ignore it, for it is--depending on the weather--a part of Beirut. And next time we wax rhapsodic about the city, let's keep in mind that beside the jasmine there is garbage, or worse: people who once were. Just don't polish them so much that they looking nothing like their former selves; remember, the ugly die too.

desperate and stupid: a rant

These posters are apparently all over Beirut - or wherever rubble exists, anyway. They bother me. They bother me because the message they convey implies that "we Lebanese were simply minding our own business, living our lives and not bothering anyone, and then all of a sudden, an Israeli-American armaggedon befell us!"

Well...What can I say? Witty? Sure. Especially that "Middle Beast" one. But self-righteously stupid nevertheless.

Message to Hizballah propaganda people:

You don't go beat up on someone a hundred times your size, and then cry "wawa" when the guy finally turns around and beats the crap out of you! Oooh... "made in the USA!"


You knew what they were capable of doing all along... even when your brainwashed supporters were distributing baklawa after you kidnaped those Israeli soldiers.

What would have happened if we lived in a Democratic polity? Well... I think the public would have had a lot of questions to ask. Maybe they would have formed a commission. Maybe that commission would eventually come to certain conclusions that would not necessarily please Hizballah, but Hizballah would have to abide by its decisions anyway.

Oh wait, we don't live in a democratic polity. Besides, the very people who should be at the forefront of calling for such an inquiry, consider doing so "treacherous." How many articles have I read, quoting villagers standing in front of their ruined houses, proudly proclaiming that the "Muqawama" protected Lebanon?

Oh yeah. And how could I forget? This calamity was "made in the USA!" It's all the Big and Little Satan's fault! I'm going to go blow my self up now so that I can somehow make my life a little better!


Friday, August 18, 2006
Collaborators & the Return of the Khalijis

First there was the General whose army unit in Marjayoun was taken hostage by the Israeli army. Instead of resisting the occupiers, he served them tea and strolled through the courtyard of the barracks with them.

Then the wife of March 14th Minister Michael Pharaon, Mona Pharaon, was caught on camera raising her glas and toasting the "success of The Israeli army."("Je bois a la sante de l'armee Israelienne".)

Yesterday morning I had breakfast with a close relation of my former roommate, at a little foul & hummus bistro in Hamra. She, a Maronite, spent the entirety of the war in her village on Mount Lebanon. Squeezed in amongst a horde of heavily perspiring men wolfing down a heavy breakfast on their way to work, she told me (and her Shia boyfriend) how she dreamed of visiting Israel as a child, to visit her high-ranking SLA collaborator uncle -- who faces 20 years in jail if he returns to Lebanon. (She wasn't a child in 2000 when her uncle fled to Israel, but rather a few months short of adulthood.) She added, "I was speaking to my cousin in Israel the other day. She loves it there. I used to ask my mother if my uncle had killed anyone. She said no. He was just responsible for delivering things. My mother never lies."

The foul & hummus nearly dropped (or rather, drizzled) from my mouth; her boyfriend and I stared at eachother in disbelief at this public proclamation. In a hushed voice, he told her to keep quiet as the whole restaurant fell silent. Seeking to alleviate the tension, she added that her father was impressed with Hezbollah's military performance when the fighting ended, and that he was "not with Israel, not with Hezbollah."

That same Shia boyfriend then reported how he had seen his family's house in southern Lebanon on CNN, as it was being occupied by Israeli troops. Apparently they showed Israeli soldiers sleeping in their beds. What a bizarre romance.

I'm moving to a new apartment for the fifth time in 11 months. Every time I move, I employ the services of a certain Zuheir and his red pick-up truck. Zuheir refuses to go "up stairs", because he -- a hobby physicist-- knows that what goes up most come down, a fate that he seeks to avoid in his line of work. He insists that he will help load the truck; according to his superior judgement, this is best done by laying the dishes down one by one on the floor of the truck and placing the couch, cupboard, stove on top of them. This is his seasoned strategy, perfected over the years; he won't budge. I labored to find another pick-up truck service to no avail. And the Syrian workers haven't returned, so I'll be schlepping by myself. And Zuheir will watch the girls get sweaty, and occasionally glance at his watch to indicate that he is in a hurry to do nothing.

My new roommate, Maya, works for an NGO that provides relief for the displaced in Beirut and to villages in the South. Her Sunni Beiruti mother complains, "Why are you helping the Shia?" But she admires Hassan Nasrallah and has declared him a Sunni.

The expected droves of nations eager to contribute to the UNIFIL force have failed to materialized. The Bangladeshis are keen to come patrol the south, but Israel refuses troops from nations with which she does not have diplomatic relations. That effectively excludes Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia and a few dozen others. The French who wanted to "lead" the mission will now only contribute two hundred soldiers. Additionally, they demand a "clear mandate", as if dodging Israeli missiles accidentally lobbed at their outposts isn't enough to bide their time. They could also author a UNIFIL cookbook. UNIFIL "fusion cuisine" could soon be the newest hit in metropoles all over the world.

Dozens of people have been killed and wounded in the past week by unexploded cluster bombs in southern Beirut and in the south. A further casualty of the ceasefire is the return of the khaliji tourists, who fled Lebanon before Dan Halutz had time to sell his stocks. Apparently they are coming back to enjoy the rest of the summer. I want to rent a room on the top floor of the Crowne Plaza hotel, and drop pamphlets warning them: "Dear Khaliji tourists, as loyal allies to your royal families, we are giving you forewarning: All hell is going to break loose again. Leave while you can. Signed: The State of Israel." Or, "Saad Hariri would like to invite you to his birthday party/ barbecue along the Lebanese-Israeli border. Dress code: Shia. Bring your Hezbollah flags. See you there."

Monday, August 14, 2006
Hassan Nasrallah: ENOUGH!

Hassan Nasrallah just gave his speech to Lebanon. I didn't catch most of it, but I did catch the following: "those who think that they can talk about Hizballah's weapons now are mistaken."

Of course, the man cannot simply be expected to state otherwise. At this point in time, so soon after the battle, the combatants cannot but insist on claiming victory. Yet in my humble opinion, if the Israelis cannot justifiably claim a victory, neither can Lebanon (or even Hizballah for that matter).

It is true that Hizballah survived this onslaught, and in so doing, was able to achieve an unprecedented feat. However, it failed to accomplish anything else, and nomatter how much better it prepared for this war, could not have accomplished more.

On that note, I have a message I wish to convey to Nasrallah (and I think I speak for the majority of Lebanese when I say this): ENOUGH!

You are not my leader. You have just been handed your "epic battle" with the Israelis and you could not have wished for a better outcome. Of course, the price WE ALL had to pay for that "victory" of yours was astronomical. Your insistence on keeping your weapons and stubbornly tagging the Syrian-Iranian foreign policy line has brought our country to the brink of oblivion. ENOUGH, Nasrallah. ENOUGH.

The Israelis are now taking their Prime Minister to task for his folly. It would be a BIG shame if the Lebanese (including your own constituents, Mr. Nasrallah) do not take you to task. Did you really pose a deterrence to Israel? Could they have inflicted any more damage to the country? Were you the one who prevented them from doing so? Were your arms worth the price all of us paid? Can Lebanon continue like this? Will Lebanon be able to get back on its feet if you do not alter your own course? And finaly, can you and your organization, Mr. Nasrallah, really survive without Lebanon?

At the end of the day, you are the Shi'a Za'im. But that is all you are: a Shi'a Za'im. You do not Lead Lebanon. You cannot ever lead Lebanon. You are one among equals in a country defined by plurality. And if the majority of your political counterparts agree to a path that differs from the path you choose, Mr. Nasrallah (however divine you may think you, or your path is), you must accept the decision of the majority.

Lebanon, today, is at a very clear juncture, Nasrallah. You either "retire" your military component while it is at the "top," leave a solid legacy behind, and save Lebanon in the process. Or, you persist in your obstinate ways, and drag all of the country into oblivion. Starting today, the real battle for Lebanon's survival begins.

Hizballah burrying dead comrades

Politics, and personal issues, aside.... You've got to give it to them. They put up quite a fight!

Victory, disappointment & Israeli army chicks

In the meantime, some Lebanese boys are sorry to be missing out on this: